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Are Religions becoming Green? Faith-Based Environmentalism in Switzerland

English title Are Religions becoming Green? Faith-Based Environmentalism in Switzerland
Applicant Köhrsen Jens-Ole
Number 192407
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Theologische Fakultät Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Religious studies, Theology
Start/End 01.02.2021 - 31.01.2023
Approved amount 387'525.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Religious studies, Theology
Sociology

Keywords (5)

Sustainability; Religion; Ecology; Climate Change; Congregations

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Religionsgemeinschaften verfügen über einflussreiche Ressourcen, um sich ökologischen Problemen wie dem Klimawandel anzunehmen. Sie können sich öffentlich für eine fortschrittliche Klimapolitik einsetzen, Projekte zur Verbesserung der CO2-Bilanz durchführen (z.B. energieeffiziente Renovierungsmassnahmen) und unter ihren Mitgliedern umweltfreundliches Verhalten fördern. Auf diese Weise können Religionsgemeinschaften zur Lösung ökologischer Herausforderungen beitragen und den nachhaltigen Wandel vorantreiben. Jedoch ist unklar, in welchem Ausmass sich Religionsgemeinschaften in der Schweiz ökologisch engagieren.
Lay summary

Aktuelle wissenschaftliche Positionen legen nahe, dass Religionen zunehmend umweltbewusster werden und sich ökologisch engagieren. Obwohl das Thema in den letzten Jahren zunehmend an Aufmerksamkeit gewonnen hat, gibt es kaum empirische Untersuchungen, die ermitteln, ob Religionsgemeinschaften auf lokaler Ebene (z.B. lokale Kirchengemeinden) tatsächlich «grüner» werden. Forschung auf dieser Ebene ist besonders wichtig, da lokale Gemeinschaften zentrale Vermittlungsstellen zwischen der Makroebene der jeweiligen religiösen Traditionen (religiöse Dachverbände) und der Mikroebene der Mitglieder sind. Gemeinschaften können «grüne» Theologien und Umweltprogramme, die von der Leitung initiiert wurden, unter den Mitgliedern verbreiten. Gleichzeitig können sie lokale Basisinitiativen fördern oder auf andere lokale Gemeinschaften ausweiten.

Dieses Projekt wird ermitteln, (a) inwieweit lokale religiöse Gemeinschaften («Congregations») in der Schweiz ökologisch engagiert sind, (b) welche Arten von Umweltengagement sie betreiben und (c) welche Faktoren ihr Umweltengagement beeinflussen. Zu diesem Zweck führt das Forschungsteam eine Umfrage unter Schweizer Religionsgemeinschaften durch. Das Projekt wird einen zentralen Beitrag zu den wachsenden internationalen Debatten über religiöses Umweltengagement leisten, indem es erklärt, welche Faktoren das religiöse Umweltengagement fördern (oder blockieren).

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 05.01.2021

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Religious communities have powerful resources at their disposal to address environmental challenges such as climate change. They can use their public voice to lobby for progressive climate policies, draw on their influence on moral attitudes to disseminate pro-environmental values among their members, and employ their infrastructures to undertake projects to improve the carbon footprint of their institutions (e.g. energy efficient refurbishments). Undertaking such activities, they can contribute to the ongoing sustainable transformations of our societies. However, it is unclear to what extent religious communities in Switzerland are undertaking environmental activities.
Lay summary

Scholarship suggests that religious traditions and communities become more environmentally aware and engaged over time. Although the topic has increasingly received academic attention in recent years, there is still little empirical expertise about religious environmentalism at the congregational level. Research at the congregational level is particularly important, given that congregations constitute important brokers of environmental engagement between the macro-level leadership of religious communities and the micro-level membership. Congregations can disseminate “green” theologies and environmental programs, which the leadership initiated, among the local membership. At the same time, they can promote religious grass-roots initiatives, which started at the local level, towards the leadership or expand them towards other local congregations.

This project will identify (a) to what extent congregations in Switzerland are environmentally engaged, (b) what types of environmental engagement they undertake, and (c) under what circumstances they are most likely to be environmentally engaged. To this end, the research team conducts a survey about the environmental engagement of congregations in Switzerland. The project will contribute to the increasing international debates about religious environmental engagement by exploring the mechanisms that facilitate (or block) this engagement.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 05.01.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
172754 Urban Green Religions? Religion in Low Carbon Transitions in two Western European Cities 01.04.2018 Project funding

Abstract

Scholarship on religion and ecology highlights religious “greening” processes, meaning that religious traditions and communities become more environmentally aware and engaged over time. By means of this “greening,” religions can contribute significantly to environmental sustainability: they can spread pro-environmental worldviews and values to their members, advocate for environmental protection in the public, and undertake environmental projects (e.g., energy-efficient refurbishments, recycling). Although the topic has increasingly received attention in recent years, there is still little expertise about religious environmentalism at the congregational level. While research has more strongly addressed the membership level (e.g., environmental attitudes of followers of particular religions), only few studies tackle religious environmentalism at the congregational level. Yet, research at the congregational level is particularly important, given that congregations constitute important brokers of environmental engagement between the macro-level (e.g., leadership/religious experts) and the micro-level of a given religion (i.e., members). Congregations can disseminate “green” theologies and environmental programs, which the leadership initiated, among the local membership (“top-down greening”). Vice versa, congregations can promote religious grass-roots initiatives, which started at the local congregational level, towards the leadership (“bottom-up greening”) or expand them towards other local congregations (“horizontal greening”). The proposed project draws upon a preliminary study about the environmental engagement of congregations in Lucerne and Ravensburg. The preliminary project found strong differences in the level of environmental engagement among local congregations, even among those from the same faith tradition. Congregations appear to operate in a relatively autonomous fashion when it comes to their environmental engagement. The proposed project will investigate and explain these differences. It aims to identify (a) to what extent congregations in Switzerland are environmentally engaged, (b) what types of environmental engagement they undertake, and (c) under what circumstances they are most likely to be environmentally engaged. For this, the research team will conduct a multi-level, mixed-methods study about the environmental engagement of congregations. Generating the first mixed-methods survey of congregational environmental engagement, the project will contribute to the increasing international debates about religion and sustainability transitions by exploring the mechanisms of this engagement.
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